Plan hatched to save wetlands from the sea

Part of a popular wetlands reserve is being sacrificed to the sea in a bid to save the whole site from the effects of coastal erosion.

The RSPB said it had decided to allow the North Sea to reclaim part of the Titchwell Marsh reserve on the Norfolk coast – using methods that could help to protect other sites from rising sea levels.

A 30-year-old sea wall currently protecting the site is being eroded, and the organisation said if it is breached, the whole reserve could be lost.

Titchwell is a mix of brackish and fresh water marshes and reedbeds, which are home to a host of rare breeding birds such as the bittern.

Under the new plans, the sea wall will be moved back behind the present brackish marsh, which will be allowed to return to tidal saltmarsh, while protecting the fresh water marsh and reedbeds.

“We faced a stark choice between sacrificing the brackish marsh or losing the whole site to the sea,” reserve manager Rob Coleman said.

It is hoped that the new defences will help to secure the site’s future for the next 50 years and protect it against possible sea level rises as a result of climate change.

Although reports in the media had suggested that rising sea levels were to blame for the current situation, an RSPB spokesman told edie that geographical conditions are behind the problem.

However, the sea wall is being built to take account of possible sea level rises, and the decision to create saltmarshes is a key climate change adaptation technique.

He said: “The way we are looking at addressing the problem by adapting is the kind of thing we would do to adapt to climate change. Creating saltmarshes is the best kind of sea defence we can have.”

It is hoped the scheme will help provide solutions to protect other important sites from sea level rises and coastal erosion in the future.

Kate Martin

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